The following is a submission from an educator as part of the Your Soapbox feature, which explores the experiences of educators in North Carolina through their own words. Check out more first person stories here, or if you are an educator, submit your own.
Many great teachers feel a calling to the profession, but that is not necessarily enough to make it a wise career path.
Our state legislators are currently causing serious harm to our state’s education system. The key to getting (and keeping) good teachers in the classroom is giving them incentives to seek and keep jobs as educators.
Teaching was never a high-paying job in NC, but it did offer something else, job security. No one (that I know of) expects to get rich teaching in NC, but they were willing to sacrifice higher pay because they care about the students and the job, and used to feel their jobs were secure and that they could not be fired without due cause.
With low pay and no job security, how can the state expect to encourage highly qualified people to seek jobs in education?
Even those desiring to be educators might be inclined to move to a state with better incentives, instead of taking their chances in NC, while wondering if their job will exist next year.
I was a Teaching Fellow; it was a great program for getting qualified teachers in the classroom, but now the program has gone the way of the Dodo (or should I say Carolina Parakeet?). This is really a sad state of affairs; more is being expected of teachers for lower pay, without raises. Workdays have been reduced, further limiting time to research and understand common core or to develop activities and implement these new ideas.
Pay may end up being dictated by test results that are largely a product of the regional culture and the prior education of students, rather than the result of a single teacher’s performance. Performance-based pay will likely take more of the focus away from the true exploration of ideas (which seems to be encouraged by common core) and redirect the focus onto achieving higher test scores, which don’t necessarily reflect “better” educational techniques or outcomes.
Accountability is important, but not to the extent that it threatens to diminish valuable, and often intangible and unquantifiable, experiences students have in dynamic, flourishing classrooms.
We have a responsibility to prepare our students to compete in a global job market, but we are jeopardizing our ability to do so; I hesitate to accuse the legislature of intentionally sabotaging the public education system, but if their intentions are genuine, they are certainly inadvertently leading us in a direction that ensures education will suffer, and as a result the students of our state will suffer… A fate no teacher I know of desires.